Tundra Telegram: Books to Trans-form Your Mood

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we discuss things that are engendering heated conversations on social media and pass along some queerly excellent titles.

This past weekend, November 20, was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed the year prior. Tragically, it was a day of remembrance that was marked by further anti-LGBTQ violence, as news broke early that morning of a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs – a tragedy that would have been much worse, if not for the actions of some heroic patrons at the club.

In the face of such tragedy, we wanted to take a moment to feature books of trans joy – books that celebrate trans lives and experiences, with minimal focus on the hardships and tragedy. (Obviously, we appreciate books that speak to trans sadness and pain, too, but this week, we’re hoping to accentuate the positive.)

PICTURE BOOKS

Let’s start with some picture books that cheerlead trans stories. Calvin by JR and Vanessa Ford, and illustrated by Kayla Harren, celebrates the lead-up to young trans boy’s first day of school, complete with new haircut, new clothes, and . . . a new name. Any hesitance Calvin had introducing his true self to the world melts away as family, friends, and teachers rally around him in a joyful story inspired by the authors’ own child.

Jodie Patterson and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow’s Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope likewise lightly fictionalizes the experiences of the author’s son, as Penelope faces some frustrations and, eventually, real triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. The main takeaway from the book is that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are – and that sounds like a message to celebrate!

Can a book only published in 2018 be a classic? We think so, which is why we’ve included classic picture book Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love on this list. A buoyant celebration of self-love and genderfluidity, the story follows young Julián after he notices three women dressed spectacularly on the subway, all on their way to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume. He worries what his abuela will think about how Julián sees himself, but soon realizes he needn’t worry: his abuela just wants to perfect his costume and take him to the parade!

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas is the real-life story of co-author Jazz Jennings, a transgender child who has become a spokesperson for trans kids everywhere. (She’s also, for TLC Fans, the star of a reality show by the very same name!)

Another book based on a true story (and inspired by a documentary), Ho’onani: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale and Mika Song, features a young Hawaiian girl in who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school. Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. So when Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she decides to be part of it in this musical celebration.

There are few things more joyous than a rainbow wig, as any My Little Pony cosplayer can tell you. You can experience that joy yourself with My Rainbow by authors DeShanna and Trinity Neal, and illustrated by Art Twink (who has maybe the best illustrator name of all time?). When young transgender girl Trinity decides she needs long hair, her dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her daughter.

We also recommend Pink, Blue, and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender and Stereotypes from Canadian children’s book artist Elise Gravel and trans activist and educator Mykaell Blais, an easy-to-understand picture book that opens the door to conversations about gender stereotypes and identity. We’ve found the book also has a crossover audience with adults who are trying to learn more, sometimes inspired by the kids and grandkids in their life who are trans or nonbinary.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Okay, so it may not be the definition of trans joy, but Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker is a cyber mystery, and that was fun in The Net! Zenobia is an expert hacker trans girl in a new town and new school. So, when there’s a mystery to be solved around hateful memes being posted anonymously, Zenobia goes full digital Nancy Drew to crack the case and finds a new home in the process.

If cyber detective work doesn’t sound joyful enough, how about gliding through the open water like an otter? Obie Is Man Enough, a book by Schuyler Bailar, competitive swimmer and the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division I men’s team, is a coming-of-age story that closely mirrors Bailar’s own experiences in the pool. Transgender tween Obie, after his transition, has to leave his swim coach and pool (there is some bullying in this book), but soon dives into things with a new, more supportive swim team, with support from family and friends – including Charlie, his first crush.

What about a combination coming-of-age transgender and ghost story? That’s what Too Bright To See, the National Book Award finalist by Kyle Lukoff, is. Best friends Moira and Bug spend the summer before middle school investigating a haunting in Bug’s eerie old house while preparing for a new stage of life. For Bug, that preparation – and, in a strange way, the haunting – lead to the revelation they are transgender.

This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby, is an appetizing sampler of stories for middle-graders from all genres. Whether they’re in the mood for contemporary coming-out trans stories or adventures of nonbinary pirates on the high seas, this dazzling anthology has a colorful tale for everyone.

YOUNG ADULT

Few things bring more joy than love and baked goods, which is why we’re recommending A. R. Capetta’s Heartbreak Bakery. Teenage baker Syd (who is agender) sends ripples of heartbreak through the queer community of Austin, Texas, when a batch of post-being-dumped brownies turns out to be magical – and makes everyone who eats them break up their romantic relationships! Syd has a major crush on Harley, the sexy trans delivery messenger, and reading this book is akin to nuzzling underneath a big, magical, queer electric blanket.

But for a touch more magic, there’s Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, a whimsical, dark fantasy about Jam, a transgender girl who befriends a horrifying monster that emerges from one of her mother’s paintings. Jam lives in a utopian society, where trans kids are trusted to know their own bodies and feelings (that’s good), but it’s a creaky utopia that may rely on secrets and deceit (not so good). Still, there’s enough wonder and magic to bring a smile to any reader’s face.

Sports, romance, and courage are the highlights of The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimmons, the story of a trans boy athlete who gets a fresh start at liberal private school – where no one knows he’s trans. Not his soccer coach, and not even the cute, down-low Christian guy he has a crush on. When the soccer league enforces a discriminatory rule, Spencer has two choices – he can keep silent and let discrimination win, or he can reveal the truth about himself and fight for his rights and face the fallout. But Spencer will find that people can always surprise you in good ways.

In the mood for a little romance, but also the adrenaline rush of an argument? Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas has the benefit of not only having a title that’s also a Joni Mitchell song, but also featuring a trans protagonist, Finch, who loves school debates! (Nerd alert!) And this isn’t just any debate Finch is competing in, it’s the Nationals, and Finch has developed a tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner as he is scheduled to debate – in a cruel twist of fate – against transgender rights.

And since we were just talking about sports, let’s hop back into the pool. Man o’War by Cory McCarthy is a frequently comical coming-of-age novel about an Arab American trans swimmer taking the plunge into self-discovery in a very not-coastal Ohio town. We’ll admit, there’s some external (and internal) homophobia and a lot of angst, but it’s also – at times – a real barrel of laughs.

We should also note there is no shortage of books about the dizzying excitement of life as a trans youth published in the Pocket Change Collective series, all illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. As just a sampling, Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon is like a gender-binary-smashing pep talk, giving readers access to the infinite possibilities within themselves. Leo Baker’s Skate For Your Life is the professional skateboarder’s personal journey within the sport as a non-binary athlete and proves that being authentically yourself is truly rad. And Continuum by Chella Man has the deaf and transgender artist, actor, and activist (from Titans) pushes readers to unlearn certain constructs in their lives and set off on a beautiful and chaotic road of exploration.

The 2023 Forest of Reading® Nominees

The Forest of Reading® is Canada’s largest recreational reading program. This initiative of the Ontario Library Association offers seven reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages. The Forest helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors, and illustrators. Here at Tundra Book Group and Friends, we’d like to congratulate our nominated authors and illustrators.

2023 Blue Spruce Award™️ Nominee

Rodney Was a Tortoise
By Nan Forler
Illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266629 | Tundra Books
Bernadette and Rodney are the best of friends. Rodney’s not so good at playing cards, but he’s great at staring contests. His favorite food is lettuce, though he eats it VERRRRRRY SLOOOOOWLY. And he’s such a joker! When Bernadette goes to sleep at night, Rodney is always there, watching over her from his tank.  As the seasons pass, Rodney moves slower and slower, until one day he stops moving at all. Without Rodney, Bernadette feels all alone. She can’t stop thinking about him, but none of her friends seem to notice. Except for Amar. Rodney Was a Tortoise is a moving story about friendship and loss. It shows the importance of expressing kindness and empathy, especially in life’s most difficult moments.

2023 Blue Spruce Award™️ Nominee

That’s Not My Name!
By Anoosha Syed
40 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593405178 | Penguin Young Readers Group
Mirha is so excited for her first day of school! She can’t wait to learn, play, and make new friends. But when her classmates mispronounce her name, she goes home wondering if she should find a new one. Maybe then she’d be able to find a monogrammed keychain at the gas station or order a hot chocolate at the cafe more easily. Mama helps Mirha to see how special her name is, and she returns to school the next day determined to help her classmates say it correctly – even if it takes a hundred tries.

2023 Red Maple Award™️ Nominees

The Bear House
By Meaghan McIsaac
272 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823452620 | Holiday House
Moody Aster and her spoiled sister Ursula are the daughters of Jasper Lourdes, Bear Major and high king of the realm. Rivals, both girls dream of becoming the Bear queen someday, although neither really deserve to, having no particular talent in… well, anything. But when their Uncle Bram murders their father in a bid for the crown, the girls are forced onto the run, along with lowly Dev the Bearkeeper and the half-grown grizzly Alcor, symbol of their house. As a bitter struggle for the throne consumes the kingdom in civil war, the sisters must rely on Dev, the bear cub, and each other to survive – and find wells of courage, cunning, and skill they never knew they had.

Children of the Fox: Thieves of Shadow #1
By Kevin Sands
416 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735270435 | Puffin Canada
A magic-infused fantasy that brings together a ragtag group of kids to pull off a crime so difficult, countless adults have already tried and failed. Lured by the promise of more money than they’ve ever dreamed of, five young criminals are hired to steal a heavily guarded treasure from the most powerful sorcerer in the city. There’s Callan the con artist, Meriel the expert at acrobatics (and knives!), Gareth the researcher, Lachlan who can obtain anything, and Foxtail, whose mysterious eyeless mask doesn’t hinder her ability to climb walls like a spider. Though their shadowy backgrounds mean that they’ve never trusted anyone but themselves, the five must learn to rely on each other in order to get the job done. But as Callan has been warned most of his life, it’s best to stay away from magic. It can turn on you at any moment, and make you think you’re the one running the con game, when in reality you’re the one being fooled. Faced with these unsurmountable odds, can the new friends pull off this legendary heist, or has their luck finally run out?

Walking in Two Worlds
By Wab Kinew
296 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269002 | Penguin Teen Canada
Bugz is caught between two worlds. In the real world, she’s a shy and self-conscious Indigenous teen who faces the stresses of teenage angst and life on the Rez. But in the virtual world, her alter ego is not just confident but dominant in a massively multiplayer video game universe. Feng is a teen boy who has been sent from China to live with his aunt, a doctor on the Rez, after his online activity suggests he may be developing extremist sympathies. Meeting each other in real life, as well as in the virtual world, Bugz and Feng immediately relate to each other as outsiders and as avid gamers. And as their connection is strengthened through their virtual adventures, they find that they have much in common in the real world, too: both must decide what to do in the face of temptations and pitfalls, and both must grapple with the impacts of family challenges and community trauma. But betrayal threatens everything Bugz has built in the virtual world, as well as her relationships in the real world, and it will take all her newfound strength to restore her friendship with Feng and reconcile the parallel aspects of her life: the traditional and the mainstream, the east and the west, the real and the virtual.

2023 Silver Birch Express Fiction Award®️ Nominee

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Brigitta Sif
64 Pages | Ages 7-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536214635 | Candlewick
Crimson Twill is a little witch, but you might not know it. She lives in the country and loves polka dots and puppies instead of pointy shoes and black dresses. She even wears a big bow on her hat – which is crimson, just like her name. Tonight, for the very first time, Crimson is riding on her mother’s broom all the way to New Wart City to go shopping at Broomingdale’s! The huge department store has everything a witch could itch for. For Crimson, each floor (hats! cats! brooms!) is a new adventure. But is Broomingdale’s ready for a witch as unique as Crimson? A rich and playful new world comes to life in the first book of this charming series.

Flipping Forward Twisting Backward
By Alma Fullerton
Illustrated by Sarah Mensinga
144 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781682633663 | Peachtree
The gym is where Claire shines and she’s on her way to qualifying for the state championships. But at school, she’s known as a troublemaker – which is fine with her since it helps her hide her reading problem. Claire has never been able to make sense of the wobbling jumble of letters on a page. When a sympathetic principal wonders if she’s acting out because she may have dyslexia, she’s stunned. Claire has always assumed she’s dumb, so she’s eager to get evaluated. But her mother balks. Afraid Claire will be labeled “stupid,” she refuses testing. Can Claire take on both her reading challenges and her mother’s denial? Is it worth jeopardizing her dream of the state championships? Told in clear and poignant verse and featuring black and white illustrations, Claire’s struggle with something that seems to come easily to everyone else will resonate with readers and have them cheering her on.

2023 Silver Birch Express Non-Fiction Award®️ Nominee

Pink, Blue, and You! Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes
By Elise Gravel and Mykaell Blais
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593178638 | Ann Schwartz Books
Is it okay for boys to cry? Can girls be strong? Should girls and boys be given different toys to play with and different clothes to wear? Should we all feel free to love whoever we choose to love? In this incredibly kid-friendly and easy-to-grasp picture book, author-illustrator Elise Gravel and transgender collaborator Mykaell Blais raise these questions and others relating to gender roles, acceptance, and stereotyping. With its simple language, colorful illustrations, engaging backmatter that showcases how “appropriate” male and female fashion has changed through history, and even a poster kids can hang on their wall, here is the ideal tool to help in conversations about a multi-layered and important topic.

2023 Yellow Cedar Award Nominees

The Hanmoji Handbook
By Jason Li, An Xiao Mina, and Jennifer 8. Lee
Illustrated by Jason Li
160 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536219135 | MITeen Press
Even though their dates of origin are millennia apart, the languages of Chinese and emoji share similarities that the average smartphone user might find surprising. These “hanmoji” parallels offer an exciting new way to learn Chinese – and a fascinating window into the evolution of Chinese Han characters. Packed with fun illustrations and engaging descriptions, The Hanmoji Handbook brings to life the ongoing dialogue between the visual elements of Chinese characters and the language of emoji. At once entertaining and educational, this unique volume holds sure appeal for readers who use emojis, anyone interested in learning Chinese, and those who love quirky, visual gift books.

2023 White Pine Award™️ Nominees

Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Wrong Side of the Court
By H. N. Khan
312 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270879 | Penguin Teen Canada
Fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudhry loves two things: basketball and his mother’s potato and ground-beef stuffed parathas. Both are round and both help him forget about things like his father, who died two years ago, his mother’s desire to arrange a marriage to his first cousin, Nusrat, back home in Pakistan, and the tiny apartment in Regent Park he shares with his mom and sister. Not to mention his estranged best friend Yousuf, who’s coping with the shooting death of his older brother. But Fawad has plans: like, asking out Ashley, even though she lives on the other, wealthier side of the tracks, and saving his friend Arif from being beaten into a pulp for being the school flirt, and making the school basketball team and dreaming of being the world’s first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. All he has to do now is convince his mother to let him try out for the basketball team. And let him date girls from his school. Not to mention somehow get Omar, the neighborhood bully, to leave him alone.

I Am Not Starfire
By Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani
184 Pages | Ages 13+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781779501264 | DC Comics
Seventeen-year-old Mandy, daughter of Starfire, is NOT like her mother. Starfire is gorgeous, tall, sparkly, and a hero. Mandy is NOT a sparkly superhero. Mandy has no powers, is a kid who dyes her hair black and hates everyone but her best friend Lincoln. To Starfire, who is from another planet, Mandy seems like an alien, like some distant angry light years away moon. And it’s possible Mandy is even more distant lately, ever since she walked out on her S.A.T.s. Which, yeah, her mom doesn’t know. Everyone thinks Mandy needs to go to college and become whoever you become at college, but Mandy has other plans. Mandy’s big plan is that she’s going to move to France and…do whatever people do in France. But then everything changes when she gets partnered with Claire for a school project. Mandy likes Claire (even if she denies it, heartily and intensely). A lot. How do you become the person you’re supposed to be when you don’t know what that is? How do you become the person you’re supposed to be when the only thing you’re sure of is what you’re not? When someone from Starfire’s past arrives, Mandy must make a choice: give up before the battle has even begun, or step into the unknown and risk everything to save her mom. I am Not Starfire is a story about teenagers and/as aliens; about knowing where you come from and where you are going; and about mothers.

Tundra Bug Club

Tundra Bug Club Banner

Bugs may give us the shivers but that doesn’t mean we don’t like learning more about them!

Butterflies Are Pretty . . . Gross!
By Rosemary Mosco
Illustrated by Jacob Souva
36 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265929 | Tundra Books
Butterflies are beautiful and quiet and gentle and sparkly . . . but that’s not the whole truth. Butterflies can be GROSS. And one butterfly in particular is here to let everyone know! Talking directly to the reader, a monarch butterfly reveals how its kind is so much more than what we think. Did you know some butterflies enjoy feasting on dead animals, rotten fruit, tears, and even poop? Some butterflies are loud, like the Cracker butterfly. Some are stinky – the smell scares predators away. Butterflies can be sneaky, like the ones who pretend to be ants to get free babysitting. This hilarious and refreshing book with silly and sweet illustrations explores the science of butterflies and shows that these insects are not the stereotypically cutesy critters we often think they are – they are fascinating, disgusting, complicated, and amazing creatures.

Head Lice
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9781101918531 | Tundra Books
Part of a series of hilarious non-fiction books about disgusting creatures, this book examines head lice. It covers such topics as head lice habitats (human heads only, dogs are gross), anatomy (his body is slightly see through, so he can always see what he ate for lunch), and parenting practice (the female louse sticks eggs to human hair and uses the leftover glue for her model airplanes). Although silly and off-the-wall, Head Lice contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

Natsumis Song of SummerNatsumi’s Song of Summer
By Robert Paul Weston
Illustrated by Misa Saburi
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265417 | Tundra Books
Natsumi’s nervousness about meeting her cousin from across the sea quickly disappears when she discovers that her cousin is a lot like her: they both love summertime’s hot sandy beaches, cool refreshing watermelon, festivals, and fireworks. Then Jill asks Natsumi about the strange buzzing sound that comes from the nearby trees, and Natsumi is nervous once again. What if Jill is frightened of Natsumi’s cherished cicadas, the insects that sing the music of summertime? This sweet and gentle picture book celebrates summer in Japan, as one little girl shares her love for bugs with her cousin who is visiting from America.

The Bug GirlThe Bug Girl
By Sophia Spencer and Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by KERASCOET
44 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267527 | Tundra Books
Sophia Spencer has loved bugs ever since a butterfly landed on her shoulder–and wouldn’t leave! – at a butterfly conservancy when she was only two-and-a-half years old. In preschool and kindergarten, Sophia was thrilled to share what she knew about grasshoppers (her very favorite insects), as well as ants and fireflies . . . but by first grade, not everyone shared her enthusiasm. Some students bullied her, and Sophia stopped talking about bugs altogether. When Sophia’s mother wrote to an entomological society looking for a bug scientist to be a pen pal for her daughter, she and Sophie were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response – letters, photos and videos came flooding in. Using the hashtag #BugsR4Girls, scientists tweeted hundreds of times to tell Sophia to keep up her interest in bugs – and it worked!

The Cockroach
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266421 | Tundra Books
The Cockroach covers lifestyle (cockroaches prefer the dark and only come out during the day when their colonies get big enough), anatomy (cockroaches have wings but rarely fly), habitat (they prefer heat to cold), life cycle (a female can give birth to up to 350 babies during her lifetime) and much more. Although silly and off-the-wall, The Cockroach contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

The Fly
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9781101918401 | Tundra Books
The first in a series of humorous books about disgusting creatures, The Fly is a look at the common housefly. It covers such topics as the hair on the fly’s body (requires a lot of shaving), its ability to walk on the ceiling (it’s pretty cool, but it’s hard to play soccer up there), and its really disgusting food tastes (garbage juice soup followed by dirty diaper with rotten tomato sauce, for example). Although silly and off-the-wall, The Fly contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

mosquitoThe Mosquito
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266476 | Tundra Books
The Mosquito covers habitat (mosquitos live everywhere except Antarctica and Iceland!), species (over 3,500!), history (the oldest recorded mosquito was 79 million years ago!) and much more. Although silly and off-the-wall, The Mosquito contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time. Hilarious illustrated nonfiction about mosquitos perfect for beginning readers. Conversational text and silly illustrations will have you up all night reading about the most annoying bug on Earth!

The Slug
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9781770496569 | Tundra Books
One in a series of humorous books about disgusting creatures, The Slug is a look at the land slug. It covers such topics as the slug’s two pairs of tentacles, one pair for seeing, one pair for smelling (it can see you’re a kid and smell like broccoli), its breathing hole (on the side of its head!), and its pretty gross mucous covering (in order to find a partner, the slug can follow another slug’s mucous trail. True love!). Although silly and off-the-wall, The Slug contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

The Spider
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9781101918548 | Tundra Books
Part of a series of hilarious non-fiction about disgusting creatures, this book looks at the spider. It covers such topics as the spider’s habitats (pretty much everywhere but outer space), the silk it spins (it can trap prey and makes a nifty bowtie), and its parenting practice (female spiders carry around their eggs in a silk purse). Although silly and off-the-wall, The Spider contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

The Worm
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9781101918418 | Tundra Books
The second in a series of humorous books about disgusting creatures, The Worm is a look at the earthworm. It covers such topics as the worm’s habitats (sometimes they live inside other animals), its anatomy (its muscle tube is slimy and gross), and its illustrious history (worms have been on Earth for 120 million years). Although silly and off-the-wall, The Worm contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

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Quiz! Find out which disgusting critter you are!

Tundra Top Ten: April 2022

Want to know what everyone else has been reading and loving lately? Every month we will share our list of top ten bestselling kids’ books that we publish into North America. Here are the Tundra and Puffin Canada titles for the month of April 2022 – how many have you read?

narwhal unincorn of the sea1. Narwhal and Jelly Series
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea

By Ben Clanton
64 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918265 | Tundra Books
Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together. A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series featuring three stories. In the first, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever – even though it doesn’t have any words . . . or pictures!

The Barren Grounds2. The Barren Grounds
By David A. Robertson
256 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266100 | Puffin Canada
Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home – until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything – including them.

3. Little Witch Hazel
By Phoebe Wahl
96 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264892 | Tundra Books
Little Witch Hazel is a tiny witch who lives in the forest, helping creatures big and small. She’s a midwife, an intrepid explorer, a hard worker, and a kind friend. In this four-season volume, Little Witch Hazel rescues an orphaned egg, goes sailing on a raft, solves the mystery of a haunted stump, and makes house calls to fellow forest dwellers. But when Little Witch Hazel needs help herself, will she get it in time? Little Witch Hazel is a beautiful ode to nature, friendship, wild things and the seasons that only Phoebe Wahl could create: an instant classic and a book that readers will pore over time and time again.

The Barnabus Project4. The Barnabus Project
By The Fan Brothers
72 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263260 | Tundra Books
Deep underground beneath Perfect Pets, where children can buy genetically engineered “perfect” creatures, there is a secret lab. Barnabus and his friends live in this lab, but none of them is perfect. They are all Failed Projects. Barnabus has never been outside his tiny bell jar, yet he dreams of one day seeing the world above ground that his pal Pip the cockroach has told him about: a world with green hills and trees, and buildings that reach all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars. But Barnabus may have to reach the outside world sooner than he thought, because the Green Rubber Suits are about to recycle all Failed Projects . . . and Barnabus doesn’t want to be made into a fluffier pet with bigger eyes. He just wants to be himself. So he decides it’s time for he and the others to escape. With his little trunk and a lot of cooperation and courage, Barnabus sets out to find freedom – and a place where he and his friends can finally be accepted for who they are. This suspenseful, poignant and magical story about following your dreams and finding where you truly belong will draw readers into a surreal, lushly detailed world in which perfection really means being true to yourself and your friends.

5. The Great Bear
By David A. Robertson
288 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266131 | Puffin Canada
Back at home after their first adventure in the Barren Grounds, Eli and Morgan each struggle with personal issues: Eli is being bullied at school, and tries to hide it from Morgan, while Morgan has to make an important decision about her birth mother. They turn to the place where they know they can learn the most, and make the journey to Misewa to visit their animal friends. This time they travel back in time and meet a young fisher that might just be their lost friend. But they discover that the village is once again in peril, and they must dig deep within themselves to find the strength to protect their beloved friends. Can they carry this strength back home to face their own challenges?

6. Carson Crosses Canada
By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Kass Reich
36 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918838 | Tundra Books
Feisty Annie Magruder and her dog, Carson, live in British Columbia, Canada, and they’re setting out to visit her sister, Elsie, in Newfoundland. In their little rattlebang car, packed with Carson’s favorite toy, Squeaky Chicken, and plenty of baloney sandwiches, Annie and Carson hit the road! They travel province by province, taking in each unique landscape and experiencing something special to that particular part of this vast, grand country. For example, they marvel at the beauty of the big, open sky – and grasshoppers! – in Saskatchewan and discover the gorgeous red earth and delicious lobster rolls in PEI, before finally being greeted by Elsie – and a surprise for Carson!

7. If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur
By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Colin Jack
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770495685 | Tundra Books
If you happen to have a dinosaur, lying around your living room, and you don’t know what to do with it . . . why don’t you use it as a can opener? It will make a terrific nutcracker too! There are oodles of uses for a dinosaur – from a fine umbrella to an excellent kite and a dandy pillow, not to mention a reliable burglar alarm and the perfect excuse to forget your homework. This delightfully absurd exploration of the domestic uses of dinosaurs – and the things dinos just aren’t good for at all – is guaranteed to tickle funny bones and spark imaginations. If you read carefully, you’ll learn how to make your dinosaur last a very long time.

mosquito8. The Mosquito
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266476 | Tundra Books
The Mosquito covers habitat (mosquitos live everywhere except Antarctica and Iceland!), species (over 3,500!), history (the oldest recorded mosquito was 79 million years ago!) and much more. Although silly and off-the-wall, The Mosquito contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time. Hilarious illustrated nonfiction about mosquitos perfect for beginning readers. Conversational text and silly illustrations will have you up all night reading about the most annoying bug on Earth!

9. Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
By Wab Kinew
Illustrated by Joe Morse
40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735262928 | Tundra Books
Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book, illustrated by the acclaimed Joe Morse. Including figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, Go Show the World showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well known and the not- so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.”

10. The Darkest Dark
By Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion
Illustrated by The Fan Brothers
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918623 | Tundra Books
Chris loves rockets and planets and pretending he’s a brave astronaut, exploring the universe. Only one problem – at night, Chris doesn’t feel so brave. He’s afraid of the dark. But when he watches the groundbreaking moon landing on TV, he realizes that space is the darkest dark there is – and the dark is beautiful and exciting, especially when you have big dreams to keep you company. Inspired by the childhood of real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield and brought to life by Terry and Eric Fan’s lush, evocative illustrations, The Darkest Dark will encourage readers to dream the impossible.

Books for Pride Month

June is Pride month when the spotlight is on celebrating and honoring all types of love – here are a dozen picture books and middle grade novels that recognize people’s different orientations! For more options, check out last year’s recommendations plus our list of titles for Transgender Awareness Month.

Picture Books:

Little Ellen
By Ellen DeGeneres
Illustrated by Eleanor Michalka
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593378601 | Random House BFYR
Before she was an award-winning actor and talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres was a little girl in New Orleans. Get to know Little Ellen and the wonderful world she sees in this book of friendship and groovy moves, perfect for kids with big imaginations and even bigger hearts! This joyful picture book promotes empathy and social-emotional learning, with an inclusive voice that encourages kids to be themselves.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

Pink, Blue, and You! Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes
By Elise Gravel and Mykaell Blais
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593178638 | Ann Schwartz Books
Is it okay for boys to cry? Can girls be strong? Should girls and boys be given different toys to play with and different clothes to wear? Should we all feel free to love whoever we choose to love? In this incredibly kid-friendly and easy-to-grasp picture book, author-illustrator Elise Gravel and transgender collaborator Mykaell Blais raise these questions and others relating to gender roles, acceptance, and stereotyping. With its simple language, colorful illustrations, engaging backmatter that showcases how “appropriate” male and female fashion has changed through history, and even a poster kids can hang on their wall, here is the ideal tool to help in conversations about a multi-layered and important topic.

Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink
By Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison, with Randi Hampson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
What does “skinnamarink” mean? You may not find its definition in a dictionary, but the meaning is clear to the generations of children who sang along: friendship, happiness, sharing, community and, ultimately, love. This song has been sung in weddings and in classrooms. It can be fun and silly – especially with the accompanying actions! And it has a way of bringing people together. Based on the classic folk song made famous by a beloved trio of children’s entertainers, this picture book is best sung aloud! “Skinnamarink” is a timeless anthem of love and inclusion.

The Rainbow Parade
By Emily Neilson
32 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593326589 | Dial Books
One day in June, Mommy, Mama, and Emily take the train into the city to watch the Rainbow Parade. The three of them love how all the people in the street are so loud, proud, and colorful, but when Mama suggests they join the parade, Emily feels nervous. Standing on the sidewalk is one thing, but walking in the parade? Surely that takes something special. This joyful and affirming picture book about a family’s first Pride parade, reminds all readers that sometimes pride takes practice and there’s no “one way” to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

‘Twas the Night Before Pride
By Joanna McClintick
Illustrated by Juana Medina
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536213430 | Candlewick
This joyful picture-book homage to a day of community and inclusion – and to the joys of anticipation – is also a comprehensive history. With bright, buoyant illustrations and lyrical, age-appropriate rhyme modeled on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” it tackles difficult content such as the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS marches. On the night before Pride, families everywhere are preparing to partake. As one family packs snacks and makes signs, an older sibling shares the importance of the march with the newest member of the family. Reflecting on the day, the siblings agree that the best thing about Pride is getting to be yourself. Debut author Joanna McClintick and Pura Belpré Award–winning author-illustrator Juana Medina create a new classic that pays homage to the beauty of families of all compositions – and of all-inclusive love.

Middle Grade:

Answers in the Pages
By David Levithan
176 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593484685 | Knopf BFYR
When Donovan left his copy of The Adventurers on the kitchen counter, he didn’t think his mom would read it – much less have a problem with it. It’s just an adventure novel about two characters trying to stop an evil genius . . . right? But soon the entire town is freaking out about whether the book’s main characters are gay, Donovan’s mom is trying to get the book removed from the school curriculum, and Donovan is caught in the middle. Donovan doesn’t really know if the two boys fall in love at the end or not – but he does know this: even if they do, it shouldn’t matter: The book should not be banned from school.

Obie is Man Enough
By Schuyler Bailar
352 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379462 | Crown BFYR
Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs. As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water – to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement
By Stella Caldwell
Foreword by Layton Williams
128 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593382943 | Penguin Workshop
The LGBTQ+ community is so much more than rainbow flags and the month of June. In this beautifully designed dynamic book, young readers will learn about groundbreaking events, including historic pushes for equality and the legalization of same-sex marriages across the world. They will dive into the phenomenal history of queer icons from ancient times to the present and read about Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, and more. Including several personal current essays from inspiring young, LGBTQ+ people, this book encourages readers to take pride in their identity and the identities of those around them. Don’t just learn about LGBTQ+ history – take pride in it!

Scout Is Not a Band Kid
By Jade Armstrong
272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593176221 | Random House Graphic
When Scout learns that her favorite author is doing an exclusive autograph session at the end of the year, she’s determined to be there! She officially needs a plan . . . and when she finds out that her school’s band is heading to the same location for their annual trip, an idea takes shape. Being a band kid can’t be that hard, right? As it turns out, learning how to play an instrument when you can’t even read music is much, much, MUCH tougher than expected. And it’s even harder for Scout when her friends aren’t on board with her new hobby. Will she be able to master the trombone, make new band friends, and get to her favorite author’s book signing? Tackling everything seems like a challenge for a supergenius superfriend supermusician – and she’s just Scout.

The Lock-Eater
By Zack Loran Clark
368 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984816887 | Dial Books
Melanie Gate is a foundling with a peculiar talent for opening the unopenable – any lock releases at the touch of her hand. One night, her orphanage is visited by Traveler, a gearling automaton there on behalf of his magical mistress, who needs an apprentice pronto. When Melanie is selected because of her gift, her life changes in a flash, and in more ways than she knows – because Traveler is not at all what he seems. But then, neither is Melanie Gate. So begins an epic adventure sparkling with magic, wit, secret identities, stinky cats, fierce orphan girls, impostor boys, and a foundling and gearling hotly pursued by the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the land.

This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us
Edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303948 | Knopf BFYR
A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true – but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out. From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories.